Tournaments : : Story
Thursday, July 05, 2012

Team Elite can't be beat

Nick Kappel        
Photo: Perfect Game

MARIETTA, Ga. — The first round of the playoffs at the PG/WWBA 18u National Championship provided plenty of fireworks for the hundreds in attendance Wednesday night. The top two seeds (Team Georgia and East Coast Baseball) have already been knocked off — thanks to the Dulin Dodgers and Blue Chip Bulls — meaning the road to the finals is wide open.

Enter Team Elite 17u Black.

With PG’s No. 1 overall ranked player in the 2013 class, Clint Frazier (2013, Logansville HS, Ga.), along with fellow National Showcase talents Austin Meadows (2013, Grayson HS, Ga.) and Rowdy Tellez (2013, Elk Grove, Calif.), Team Elite 17u Black boasts one of the most dangerous lineups in the tournament.

Through seven pool games and their first playoff contest, Team Elite 17u Black’s No. 2-3-4 hitters have punished opposing pitching: Meadows is 6-for-21 with two doubles, one triple, a home run and a stolen base; Frazier is 9-for-18 with eight runs, nine RBI, two doubles, one triple, four home runs and two stolen bases; Tellez is 5-for-16 with three doubles and a homer.

Hunter Webb (2013, Russell County HS, Ala.) — who also attended the National Showcase — is 6-for-17 with two doubles and one triple. Head Coach Brad Bouras calls Webb the offensive “sparkplug.”

The first few innings we were down 1-0,” Coach Bouras said of Wednesday night’s playoff game against OTC Baseball 18U (6-2). “But we showed the heart, discipline and what it means to come together as a team. All week it’s been the top of our lineup getting it going. Our rally tonight started with our No. four through 10 hitters.”

Sam Ayers (2013, Cass HS, Ga.), Robert Youngblood (2013, Parkview HS, Ga.) and Tellez all doubled in Team Elite’s four-run fifth inning. John Topoleski (2013, Collins Hill HS, Ga.) also doubled in the team’s five-run sixth to break the game wide open.

Frazier hit his fourth home run of the tournament to lead off the sixth, a bomb over the wall in left-center.

My eyes lit up because it was right where I like it, down the middle and away so I could extend my arms,” Frazier said after the game. “It felt like a line drive off the bat, I didn’t think it was going to go for a home run.”

That should give you an idea of just how strong Frazier is. The Georgia commit can also run and throw—he ran a 6.42 60-yard dash and threw 98 mph from the outfield at the National Showcase.

He’s a kid in our area that everyone has known for years,” Coach Bouras said of Frazier. “He had over 20 home runs last year and went to the Junior National Showcase, got ranked in the top 20 and I think he still felt like he wasn’t getting the attention he deserved. He had a great showing in Minneapolis (last month at the National Showcase) and I feel like all it did was boost his confidence even more since people are noticing him now. Every time he comes to the plate, you know there’s going to be a ball driven somewhere.”

While Team Elite 17u Black — now 7-0-1 — is known for their potent bats, their pitching is what’s gotten them this far. They’ve allowed one run or less in six of their eight games and just six earned runs in 50 tournament innings (1.08 ERA).

Zachary McCrum (2013, South Forsyth HS, Ga.) pitched four innings of one-hit ball while striking out nine on Tuesday. Dylan Williams (2013, Cass HS, Ga.) and Tyler Payne (2013, Stratford Academy HS, Ga.) each tossed four shutout innings on Monday and Sunday, respectively. Logan Haner (2013, Mount Paran Christian HS, Ga.) has started two games, combining to allow just one earned run in 12 innings pitched.

Coach Bouras has yet to decide who’ll pitch the team’s second-round playoff game Thursday morning, but he has plenty of rested arms to choose from.

We have a couple different options,” he said. “We’re in a pretty good situation when it comes to the pitching staff right now. It’s going to be a team effort. Everyone is on the same page, we’re just trying to stay balanced across the board.”

Team Elite may be balanced, but it’s the chemistry among their players that sets them apart. Most of the 17u team has been together since they were 12 years old, which is why it was important to Coach Bouras that he keep his 17u squad intact for the 18u National Championship.

This is a unique team with a lot of characters,” he said. “I feel like we’ve finally come together as a group. To me, it’s all about chemistry in these events. There are a lot of talented teams, so anything can happen. It’s the teams that play defense, have solid pitching and clutch hits that are really successful in this stuff.”

When asked what it’d be like to win the 18u National Championship, Frazier didn’t hold back.

I’ll be happy, but then we’ll come out and win the 17u right after it,” he said. “We won’t be happy with just one national championship, we want two.”

Success in this tournament is important, but the big picture reality is that events like this one have helped the Team Elite organization grow in recent years.

I’m a huge supporter of Perfect Game,” Coach Bouras said. “So much exposure has come to not only our Team Elite program, but our area as a whole has really grown. Some of our players are guys that I’ve felt in the past might have been under the radar, but Perfect Game has helped get these guys on the radar now. This all started when we went to the tournament in Jupiter three or four years ago and won our pool. It’s kind of started since then to really get our name out there. We have a lot to thank Perfect Game for.”

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